Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Can Christ be divided into pieces? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul?
For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News – and not with clever speeches and high-sounding ideas, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 17)
Even in the early church, people started picking one “leader” over another. Some were trying to align themselves with Paul, Apollos, or Peter. Basically, these were different guys, they had different approaches to ministry, and some people thought one guy had it “right” moreso than the other. Early on, the church was in danger of being divided. So this is Paul’s attempt to prevent what would eventually become our present-day denominations.
Paul goes on:
As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:19-21, 26-29)
The main point in this passage is that Christ “is the one who made us acceptible to God” (v30). But there is another implication here.
Where did the divisions start? The division started because Paul, Apollos, and Peter each had a unique approach to ministry. And though they each pointed people to Christ, they were influential to the point where people were following them instead of Christ.
Paul is indicating here that the wisdom of man is useless to God – meaning that God will use the foolish and the weak to spread His gospel. Yet our modern-day pastors ensure that their leadership skills are top-notch. They utilize the best statistical methods to make sure their worship services are having an “impact” by tracking attendance, monetary giving, or even the number of cars in the parking lot. They employ the best consultants to help them tweak their message and presentation to be friendly to their target demographic. This kind of approach is the exact same thing any modern-day CEO would do. This is the best of human wisdom. If it can grow a profitable company, of course it can grow a church.
But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Or in the fruit, as Christ said. In his research, George Barna paints a bleak picture that the “churched” population is still lost. This is the result of human wisdom – building large buildings, filling them with a lot of people, but the end result being that you can’t tell them apart from the rest of the world. And on top of that, division between believers is stronger than it ever has been.
Paul seems to paint a different picture. But in order to get there, we have to learn to not rely on human wisdom. Which means a lot less of acting like a CEO would, and a lot more acting as Jesus did when He chose the twelve and told them to train others in a similar fashion.
“Clever speeches and high-sounding ideas.” Doesn’t that sound exactly like what a typical approach to church is today?